Harvard Health Letter

Don't ignore stroke-like symptoms

Take note if you believe you've experienced symptoms of stroke that have gone away after a few minutes; the symptoms not only increase your risk for having a full-blown stroke, but also signal a risk for developing problems with thinking and memory. That's according to a study published online June 19, 2013, in Neurology. A mini-stroke (also called a transient ischemic attack or TIA) occurs when a blood clot briefly blocks blood flow to the brain. Symptoms come on suddenly and typically last less than five minutes without causing permanent damage. They include slurred speech, dizziness, numbness on one side of the body, difficulty walking, and confusion. Researchers determined that people who had these symptoms were more likely to develop cognitive problems than people who did not have stroke symptoms. Researchers say the findings highlight the importance of discussing stroke-like symptoms with your family doctor, even if the symptoms don't last long. "It is important to call the primary care physician immediately when such symptoms arise, and if they consist of sudden one-sided weakness or sudden speech loss, to actually go to the emergency department to be evaluated. Those symptoms are more likely to represent a TIA," says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

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